Monday, October 31, 2016

10 Questions for October

Borrowed from Viva Carlos

What do you consider “jumping high” for yourself?

Totally not very high.  Also, this was taken in 2009. 
I don't really jump.  To be honest, just jumping over two feet is enough for me.  I occasionally jumped higher in university.  If I had a horse that was well schooled in jumping, I would jump more.

What are your short term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them?

I'm hoping to show at Regionals this next year.  Achieving a regional title under saddle would be great.
I'm optimistic, but you never know.  A lot can happen between now and next June.

Long term goals for riding? Do you think you’ll reach them?
My longer term goals would be to return to Sport Horse Nationals.  I had the immense fortune of showing a friend's stallion and got reserve national champion.  I want to go back with one of my own horses next.

I'm sure I will return, just not sure when.  Finances are a major thing in my life.  Unfortunately horses are super expensive (no kidding).

How many barns have you been at in your riding career?
I've boarded at quite a few.  Several were where my undergraduate university was and then more when I settled into where I currently live.  Six or seven barns sounds about right.  I talk to most of my former barn owners.  :)  Just had different needs at different times.

How many different trainers have you been with in your riding career?
This is the Semi-Feral page.  I've never been in a "program" so to speak.  I have a wonderful gal that I've taken lessons with, but it's dependent on finances, so not currently so often.  I also have received some driving lessons in starting to get Chili going in harness.  A former barn owner was an eventer, so I had lessons from her.  :) 

I've ridden in two clincs: one with Tommy Garland and the other with Jec Ballou.

Ever worked at a barn? What did you do?
I have done barn chores at a couple of barns.  One barn had a variety of stallions, so I helped handle them.  Now, there are pretty strict rules on compensation, so I am careful to remain inside the amateur guidelines.

Scariest thing that has happened at your barn?
I had a stallion that was just a nasty beast.  I glanced away for just a second and he grabbed and picked me up by the scarf. I am not sure what happened to him as I think the owner pass him along to some other soul down the road.  He was an HYPP Quarter Horse stallion who had shown quite a bit in halter.

Have you ever given a lesson? What level was the rider?
I taught at a summer camp for probably eight years or so.  It was primarily everything from raw beginners to students starting to learn the basics of lead changes.  I also did lots of trail rides for children and the public.

Usually on horses that had their own opinions on what they wanted to do.

What is your opinion on the accuracy of critiquing riders online?
If it's not dangerous, then I don't think people should really comment.  Abuse is one of those fine line things.  I get frustrated and can't stand the individuals riding the Big Lick Tennessee Walking Horses, but when people are against anyone over 150 pounds on a horse, then where is the line?

I don't have great equitation, but don't (knock on wood) usually come off horses, so I am sure people would have a field day on how I ride.  It's a work in progress, which I clearly understand.  Feedback from a random armchair quarterback isn't constructive.  Someone that has been in my shoes and can tell me how to keep from dropping my left shoulder would appreciated. 

What is the ideal height of a horse for you?

I am not a fan of tall horses, which is ironic, given I am not a small person.  I prefer being in the 15.1 to 15.2 hand range and wide enough to take up a lot of leg. 

Donni is 15.1.  Chili is just about 15 hands if I had to guess.  I had the girls standing side by side the other day and they are pretty close.  However, Chili is much more narrow than Donni.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What's In Your Bucket

I have a friend that used to always call with feeding questions.  It's kind of funny, but it brings me back to how many people don't have any idea what or how to feed a horse.

Granted, there are so many options.  I have a little bit of experience from a West coast perspective as well as a Midwest perspective and it is quite different.

My family in California just fed horses pellets.  No hay, generally speaking. 

Here in the Midwest, that idea is just about impossible.  Horses should have hay, preferably 24/7.  Horses should have grass, and space, and mud and plenty of bird sized mosquitoes to carry them away.

But that brings me back to the question:
What's in your bucket?

What do you feed and why?

I have two horses of different ages.  Donni is older and after a massive choke episode, she is now eating soaked grain daily.  She also has become a much harder keeper in the past year, where she used to be just a large blimp on legs. 

She eats a combination of Tribute's Kalm N EZ and alfalfa pellets.  I just like adding the alfalfa pellets for some extra calories and roughage.

Chili is five and an incredibly picky eater.  She's always been picky, slow, and irritating.  She's also a moderately difficult keeper, so she needs more than just a simple ration balancer to give her vitamins and minerals, along with necessary amino acids.

But finally, she seems to be on a diet that she is eating (knock on wood), which is a mixture of Purina's Ultium, oats, and alfalfa pellets.  She also has added flaxeed for the omega fatty acid components and to see if it helps with her incessant itchiness.

The scientist in me wanted to balance out the diet, beyond just basic calories.

I hopped on over to which offers a couple of basic subscriptions for less than a dinner out on the town.  It is fairly easy to use and users can input amounts of a grain feed, pasture quality, hay fed, and any supplements to see what vitamins, minerals, protein, calories, and so forth, that may be missing or excessive in the diet. 

One of the things that I played around with the most was the cost calculator.  Users can input the approximate cost per bag of grain, so by toggling and changing how much of the diet was oats vs Ultium, I could adjust the price in my favor.

Needless to say, horses are still expensive, but I might as well pay and buy more the of the $12 bag of oats compared to the $28 bag of Purina Ultium and still have a balanced ration.

I mix it up in a large feed tub in the basement and bring it out to the barn to serve, so to minimize on the hassle and mixing that the barn folks would have to do.

So what about you?  What's in your bucket?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Small Adventures

Part of my goals for this past year was to work on getting more comfortable pulling my truck and trailer.

It's been small steps at a time, but I have been surrounded by good friends that despite crippling personal anxiety, have helped me out with my baby steps.

A friend of mine agreed to come trail riding at a local park that has equestrian trails.  I've been there a couple times before and it's just a few miles from my house, so perfect in being able to toss the horses in the trailer and go.

A couple other folks I knew also met me at the park.  Apparently I must know 71047024704 horse people as I was expecting four people and had a lot more.  It was great exposure for ADD Chili who couldn't figure out which horse she wanted to check out. 

She then decided they all walked to slow and it was all quite irritating. 

But, there was so much mud, so it was great for getting Chili over her dislike of mud.  She had no choice but to pick between mud, mud, or more mud.

So much mud.  Poor Chili.

This park also has an area where horses can walk into the lake for a drink.  The first time Chili flatly refused to go in and was actually ponied (read: drug) in by a mule. 

The second time took a lot of convincing, but she did go in, but didn't look incredibly thrilled.

Apparently third time was the charm.  She fussed a little bit about the mud, but then went in.  She drank (hurray!) and then proceeded to splash, paw, and had a little too much fun.  As long as she doesn't learn to roll, I'm good.

I had a GoPro attached, so the wide eyed photos are courtesy of the GoPro.  I haven't used it for much, but it seemed to be a perfect day to try it out.  The only downside was that photos of myself were a little silly with my chest harness strapped on, but what do you expect?  Basically 99.9% of all photos of me are silly.  ;)

Donni was an absolute trooper.  She's had a good amount of time off and for just being pulled out of the pasture, cleaned, and saddled, she took it all in stride.  She doesn't have a lot of life experience with hauling out and trail riding in general, but she was quite relaxed and good about the whole ordeal.

Apparently twenty one is the legal drinking age and the age at which Arabian mares grow up.  Tongue in cheek, of course.  Love my Arabians.

Our partners included multiple Friesians, a mule, a pony, two Arabians, a half Arabian, a Paint, and a Quarter Horse.  I think I remembered them all.  :)  Quite the fun trail riding crew.

This was the perfect type of small adventure that I needed.  Horses were good, I managed to overcome my natural anxiety and just get it done.  Hooked the trailer up on the first pass, managed to get it parked in a semi straight fashion, horses, and humans survived.

A win/win in my books.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Double or Nothing

I have spent most of this past week laying low.  I ended up developing what I am guessing is a sinus infection or a mild respiratory infection of some sort which peaked in actually calling into work on Wednesday, which is a rarity for me.  By Thursday, I was back at work, but still bushed.  Apparently not breathing does that.

But today is one of those lovely Midwestern autumn days.  Leaves falling, weather is pretty darn nice, and the blasted bugs are all but dead. 

So I decided to finally get my act together this afternoon and wandered out to the barn. 

I rode Chili first. The other horses were being turned out from the drylots onto grass, so they were quite boisterous and Chili was pretty convinced she was dying for a few minutes.  I decided to be on the safe side, so I tacked her up and long lined her to see if we had tiny squirrel brain or regular young horse brain on board, since it's been a week since I've ridden her.

She was actually fairly lazy in the lines, so I hopped on board. 

-Standing quietly for mounting as she usually likes to walk off
-Picked up both canter leads quietly from the trot without trying to run into it.  Bonus on the correct leads

-Decided to be a crab and balk and not want to work after I stopped and did some basic turns on the forehand and then asked her to go back into trotting.  Apparently I like to cool down a little too often doing TOF and sidepasses, so that I need to vary this a little.

We then wandered outside to enjoy the pretty weather.  She was a little forward and hot, but nothing too exciting.  It's been a couple weeks since she's had consistent exercise and the fall weather does liven them up at times.

I also decided to take my whip since I need some reinforcement when she decides to balk.  She's not a horse that takes happily to a major correction since she gets light on the forehand or likes to kick out, but just carrying the whip is usually enough incentive to keep moving if she gets stuck.

She was really quite good.  She hasn't had too much experience about traversing through all of the fallen leaves, so she was a little worried that the trees & landscape had changed from the typical route we take.  I am pretty sure that a bush could disappear and this horse has a mental map that would know exactly where that bush should have been.

The only hiccup was that there was gravel laid in the path where a rut had formed from a truck driving back there.  The gravel had changed the dark mud to obviously gravel colored and was accented by a couple of road cones.  I really have no idea why the road cones were there.

Chili was worried about this change and was stuck for a few minutes, but after some quiet patience, she moved along. Too much pressure causes her to get anxious and act out in some way, so my goal is to be the best wife ever and nag enough that she doesn't know she's being nagged.  That's my analogy and I'm sticking to it.

I finished up ruining Chili's evening by clipping that ridiculously long bridle path as seen above.  She's good for the bridle path, but why not finish the evening by working on clipping her ears.

Let's suffice it to say that having a root canal is more pleasant than clipping her ears.

But it's on the list of things to accomplish this year is being able to clip her ears without restraint.  We'll see.  I don't think she'll ever be "OK" with the process, but not using a twitch and/or drugs in high quantities would be great.  To be fair to Chili, she is getting better and we were working on just accepting the vibration and having her lower her head and lick and chew with my hand on her ear and the clipper next to it.

Small steps.

After finally letting the horse free on grass, I contemplated just going home to never move again.

So I decided to go and get Donni off the pasture instead. 

Donni hasn't been in much work and is more or less basically retired except when friends come to ride.  I am just starting to see if I can find a part leaser for her, since she's still sound and useful, but I just don't have the time and energy to keep two horses in solid work.

I didn't work her terribly long, but it is such a change from Chili.  Despite the fact that Donni is Chili's dam, they are quite different to ride in a lot of ways.  Donni is much more forward and about ten times as wide.  She's a lot more steady and easier to keep between the reins.  Donni probably has a better work ethic too, in the fact that she is always ready to keep going. 

But all in all, both girls were excellent, despite their time off. 

A great gamble for sure: double or nothing.
One of the barn owner's Fjords.  Beyond cute. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Meet Squeaky

I figure it's about time to introduce some of the non-horse related things in my life that help contribute to the fun and semi feral atmosphere around here.

Meet Squeaky.

My first (and I imagine last) attempt at a foster failure.

It started when my sister-in-law called her brother, my husband, about a cat that needed a home.  The cat belonged to a deaf individual and was supposed to be a trained cat in some capacity, as in, perhaps it alerted her to people at the door.

I was pretty skeptical about this, but hey, a trained cat.  How can things go wrong?

The original owner sadly committed suicide.  I talked the husband into being a short term foster.  Husband called the sister back.  Fast forward a few days, a couple of crossed wires, and here's the basis synopsis.

Despite our interest, the cat ended up at the humane society where she was spayed, dewormed, and vaccinated on the date of intake, despite having been closed in an apartment after her owner's death.  The person that was supposed to hand over the cat, sprung her from the humane society, and we did get her into our possession.

The downside was that she was extremely thin (less than half of her body weight based on intake from the humane society!) and had an upper respiratory infection and ear mites.  I locked her into my spare bedroom for quarantine from the original cat while we set about figuring things out.

She promptly crawled into a small space in the back of the closet, creating an hour long search.  She was so ill that she did not eat or drink on her own.  She ran a high fever and hardly moved from her corner in the crate we kept her in.

Good thing, I worked for a veterinarian.  For weeks, it was touch and go as we pumped antibiotics and fluids into her.  She still didn't eat or drink. 

Finally, she turned the corner.  She would crawl into our laps and purr while we did subcutaneous injections each day.  We had a small celebration the first time she finally ate some wet food on her own.

Needless to say, "Squeaky" has survived.  She got her name because she constantly sits and squeaks at my husband and myself.

Why?  No idea.  Just meows and squeaks.  Over and over.  Trained?  Not so much.

Foster failure, yes.  No regrets though, at least on my end.  My husband, however, will think twice before volunteering to take a "trained cat". 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Proprioception (and How I Am Just Plain Semi-Feral)

Sometimes I have no idea what gets people excited.

This would get lots of equestrians excited

Some days I have the pleasure of learning such.

But the topic of today, is proprioception. 

It is defined by Dr Clayton of MSU as "Proprioception refers to a horse's awareness of his body's position and movements, including limb and foot placement. Unconscious proprioception coordinates a horse's posture and basic locomotion, whereas conscious proprioception facilitates more complex locomotor tasks."

Equestrians use this quite often without realizing it.  One such exercise is the basic use of poles to increase or change the horse's stride and gait. 

Another is the use of tactile bracelets, which might jangle on a horse's pastern, causing them to pick up their feet higher.  Often seen with saddleseat horses, these devices can help retrain the muscles of a horse that is prone to toe dragging.

What does this have to do with my blog? 

Well, I just think it's interesting.

Chili has had multiple injuries and while she is sound, I want to strengthen and encourage her to utilize her hind legs equally.  She had multiple injuries to the same left hind, so it has left her more prone to counter cantering, or resisting and bracing the canter when I ask her to load and use that left leg. 

I saw another person that engages in equine rehabilitation utilizing a soft polo wrap in the above fashion, but more in the figure eight style.  The goal is to have the horse have the tactile stimulation of something on their hindquarters and to evenly engage both hind legs.

Poor horse had to think hard. 

The wrap wasn't on long, but she did work evenly behind based on her inner thigh sweat.  I just lunged her for a few minutes, popped her over some cavaletti, and then asked for a clean canter transition both ways.

Holy smokes, they were clean with very little fuss, no rushing, no worrying. 

I don't think it's a miracle cure, but why not use a bit of stimulation to help a horse remember that hey, you do have TWO hind legs and that it's OK to use them?

I posted these photos on my Facebook.

I forgot that I just do things in my typical semi feral way.  I like experimenting with different theories and ideas.  I have utilized a lot of physical therapy in my personal life, given that I have hyperflexibility issues.

Well, the above photos did get someone quite upset, since it isn't the true way to ask a horse to collect and to shift weight to the hindquarters.  Despite my explanation, I don't think it went very far.  I think that I just need a warning of "horse person: trying unusual things.  Sorry for the strict DQ."  :)

So my apologies if this post was upsetting. 

Anyone else enjoy alternative therapies?  I don't have any experience with Kinesology taping, but I have a friend who is an equine massage therapist that is using it with quite a lot of success.

Goal here is to help open the shoulder to help the horse with the jump

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Of Grief and Loss

When we think of those companions who traveled by our side down life's road, let us not say with sadness that they left us behind, but rather say with gentle gratitude that they once were with us.
Author Unknown

 This is easier said than done. 

I have been accused of being a "cold hearted bitch" with how I react to grief and loss.  That's not it at all.  If anyone has been involved with Myers-Briggs typing, I am an INTP--basically a major introvert with a thinking side. 

After another loss today of a mare I loved dearly, I am struggling on what to say to her owner. 

Is it fair when others grieve on the loss of a horse that isn't theirs? 

I find myself feeling guilty that she purchased the horse in the first place.  Maybe if I hadn't insisted that we should go into the fields, we wouldn't have saw her.  Maybe she wouldn't have come up to me, sighed, and put her sweet grey head on my shoulder. 

Maybe we wouldn't have fallen in love.

I found myself searching on how my personality type is supposed to handle grief.  This is a snippet of what I found:

INTPs often find themselves burying their sorrow, in an attempt to get over it. INTPs often do not process their grief at first and want to find ways of ignoring it. They may take quite some time before this pain resurfaces and they are forced to deal with it. INTPs may refuse to show emotion in front of others, making it look like they are perfectly fine. Eventually though the INTP does best if they are allowed to fully feel their grief. They often are not capable of handling this pain in the presence of others and do best processing it alone. Hearing other people express their own sadness to the INTP and listening to that person explain why they are hurting, may help the INTP to process it later on. When the INTP realizes that these emotions are perfectly normal and that it is necessary to accept this emotion to move on, they will be able to let go and fully grieve. Reading about the grieving process can be oddly comforting to the INTP, this way they can tie logical practices and reasoning to what they are feeling.

This seems so ironic.  Here I am trying to handle and process grief and am searching up how to deal with life.

But it seems to help and hopefully in doing so, I can be a better friend to her owner, who really is strong to do the right thing at the right time.

Symphony on the far right
Does anyone else grieve for pets that aren't theirs?  Or am I truly alone?  

Simple Goals

There are some days that the goals just need to be simple.

The other day was an example of that.

Chili was not especially hot, but silly.  The mounting block was apparently terrifying so she spent way longer than necessary arching her neck and snorting and blowing at it.  Seriously horse.

She is not an especially spooking horse, so I have no idea what that was about.  I had set up some basic cavaletti in the center of the ring, but I had to reduce my goals down to doing circles without a leaping lizard-squirrel maneuver.

Well simply going back to basics didn't help either.  I finally picked up the whip and after a short discussion on that forward is an option and putting on some big girl pants, Chili finally realized that yes, she could go in a circle without being a dip.

That's the hard thing I have sometimes is knowing when a horse's behavior is simply inexperience or fear or just being a squirrel. 

In this case, it was squirrel.  With the application of some forward and just carrying the whip, I was able to salvage our ride.

I was trying out the above app.  I apologize for the bright colors, but it's kind of fun! 

At the end, I cooled down with taking another baseline value for the 2Pointober Contest 
I started with a baseline of 02:36.09 and made it all the way to 04:12.31.  

Hurray for simple goals!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ireland: Part 1

I missed out on a lot of memories and events from the past year.  One of my favorites was the trip to Ireland.  I have some photos to share.  My apologies in advance.


It all started when I randomly saw a Groupon in my email.  Usually I thinking nothing of it, but the price seemed almost too good to be true and it included airfare.  I had always wanted to travel to Europe, so I showed it to the husband.  We had to find two more people so he managed to convince his mother and aunt to join in and we were booked.


Ten days in Ireland, starting with flying into Dublin.  Our hotel for most of the stay was in a very adorable city, Adare.  It was lovely and picturesque, but a fair drive from Dublin.   

To break up the drive, it was suggested that I find an activity that we could do that was partway between Adare and Dublin.  I promptly found the Irish National Stud.  

In case you can't tell from the photos, there are a plethora of mares and foals there, along with some high caliber Thoroughbred stallions.   

Too much cuteness

Besides the horses, the grounds at the Stud is absolutely amazing.  They have a fantastic Japanese garden and beautiful landscaping and paths to just wander.
This is my family's favorite photo from the trip.  Duck butts.  Seriously
Swans.  So fancy

So this was part of day one in Ireland.  I strongly recommend stopping by if you're in the area, or quite frankly the country.  :) 

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Easier said than done

Today was a good day.  My dear friend J came to visit today, which I always appreciate, despite the drive she has. 

Donni and Chili had been a little spunky the other day, so we let them loose in the indoor to roll around for a minute.  They mostly just practiced standing and staring at us, so we saddled them up and went outside.

I wanted to see if we could get a test or two taped for a virtual show.  North American Western Dressage (NAWD) offers virtual shows with judges that basically sit and score various western dressage, western dressage trail, traditional dressage, and ranch pattern type classes online.

I have submitted some videos before and the feedback was "entertaining" the last time around.  Basically, the judge said that I needed lunge lessons before I should ever consider cantering my horse.In my clinic with Jec Ballou, she told me the opposite.  Canter the dang horse as much as possible.  One of these days, I will actually try to write up a recap of the Jec clinic, but I think it was a great experience.

But in the end, feedback is only as useful as we can make it, so despite mentally rolling my eyes at some of the commentary, we set out for some more taping.A few problems presented itself.  One was that I was trying to read a test to J and film and I had Chili.  I started reading a test and then promptly recorded Chili face.  Epic fail. 

My solution was to climb on Chili, sit behind C, and record and read at the same time.  Good thing Chili was feeling quite cooperative and didn't move too much.  Hopefully the video turned out OK, as I haven't watched it all yet.

By the time J was ready for me, her SO had come back from his outing and decided to be the cameraman which was excellent.  Much easier for someone to read and another person to film.  Self: please remember this next time.

Chili was pretty well behaved, however, I think I need to learn to school with the whip.  I have never used spurs on her either, but not sure how I should begin addressing the fact that when she is getting more fatigued, she just out and out leans down on my hands or sucks downwards if I let her.  Adding leg just seems to pop the head up momentarily, but perhaps if I got after her each time she did it?

Regardless, this was a factor in our last virtual test, which is what I think the judge misinterpreted that I was pulling her head down.  I can't really pull her head down, nor has she ever had equipment along the lines of draw reins to do so, she just naturally does this.  I have plenty of video of her on the lunge just trying to do her best peanut rolling AQHA impressions. 

Or would spurs provide a more immediate response? 
Tired horse starting to lean...

I am not really well enough informed either way to make a decision.  Also sadly, my pocket book isn't such to support frequent lessons so someone else can make an informed decision.  Good thing these are my horses and either way, they are probably stuck with me, even if we just decide to muddle around in training level for approximately the next twenty years.

The NAWD organization also offers western dressage trail, which I decided to do in my dressage saddle because it was on the horse.

It was a good experience and it's not everyday that I decide to try and ride a perfect 20 meter circle around ground poles set in the center of the arena. 

There is also an L which in the easiest test is just walked through.  Other obstacles include a pair of sunglasses (or binoculars) to be picked up off a barrel at E, but I had to improvise and use a fence post and of course, the four trot poles of which X was in the center. 

Now comes the big I submit these videos and face the feedback?

Not sure, I have until the 24th of October when the videos are due.  I am considering trying to find a pair of little spurs and trying them out the next time.  I have ridden with the whip, but that usually gets the racehorse speed until she's tired and then she leans again. 

Feedback anyone?  ;) :)